Seven OccupyMN demonstrators have been arrested for blocking traffic today after refusing to leave tents set up in the middle of the intersection of 6th Street S. and 3rd Av. S.
They are the first multiple arrests during the two-week anti-Wall Street demonstration.
The protest, which focused on the large number of foreclosures, began around noon when about 100 protesters set up four small tents on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Bank building at 5th St. and 3rd. Ave. S.
The police watched but took no action, so the group then marched to the intersection on the other side of the building and set up the tents in the middle of the street. Railing against banks' foreclosing on homeowners, they chanted as police detoured traffic.
Police moved in and dismantled three of the tents, which were little more than boards and transparent plastic. The protesters enircled the one remaining tent and then pitched a second small camping tent.
The protesters eventually moved out of the street, save for seven who wouldn't leave the tents and assumed they would be arrested. They got their wish.
After they were warned over a bullhorn by Sgt. Gary Nelson, that failure to leave the imiddle of the intersection would lead to their arrest, the seven were taken one-by-one into custody by police who handcuffed them and took them to a nearby prisoner transport vehicle. Nelson said they would be charged with interfering with traffic, a misdemeanor under city ordinance.
It's the first instance of multiple arrests since the "occupation" of the Hennepin County government plaza began Oct. 7. A previous intersection sit-in ended without any arrests.
Tom Joyce, a spokesman for U.S. Bank, issued a statement prior to the arrests. "We understand that in these challenging times, many are concerned about the economy and the continued high unemployment," he said. "At U.S. Bank, we are continuing to grow our lending, grow jobs and grow our investments in communities--here in Minnesota and across the country." Asked about the protesters' concerns about the bank's foreclosures, he said that "foreclosure is always the last option for borrowers and the bank. We've worked with thousands of borrowers across the country on modifying their mortgages to help them manage their payments."
OccupyMN protesters issued their own statment after the arrests. "The corruption of Wall Street and the big banks is responsible for our country's economic recession and the foreclosure crisis," they said. "OccupyMN stands in solidarity with foreclosure victims. We want our houses back."